Saturday, December 1, 2007

It Takes a Village

I am not the first one in my circle to have a baby (OK, my son is technically not a baby - he turns 4 at the end of the month), but I am the first among us - that I'm aware of - to become a Certified Parent Educator.

In no way does that mean that I am certified to actually be a parent. Anyone can do that. That's the easy part: creating a child, bringing him or her into the world. The challenge comes afterwards and the more verbal and active the little beings become, the bigger the challenge.

One of my best girlfriends contacted me recently for some helpful words of wisdom. You see, with my son (and high-conflict divorce) I've pretty much dealt with every possible parenting issue under the sun. The fact that my sister (whose son is 18 months younger than mine) and my friend who is ten years older than me (give or take) come to me with questions regarding their little ones and the ages and stages that they're in gives me strength and encouragement that I hope I am able to reflect back to them.

That I've been there, done that, proves nothing except for the fact that we all - as parents - must go through the same things, exactly the same things. Whether our kids hit, bite, talk back, or repeat something we've said, our children will still continue look to us for advice, guidance and for our unconditional love and support.

Now, I can't speak for all parents, but I know that there are certainly days when I feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and wonder how on earth I could possibly survive another day with the energetic bundle of bones that is jumping on me, screaming and crying loud enough to wake the neighbors (and still somehow manage to make me smile through it all).

Those are the days - and nights - when I wonder how I will possibly get to work (and function) on little or no sleep. Then there are the times when I wish I could play hooky, when I wish I could just sit up all night and watch my little guy sleep (and listen to what he says while he's dreaming).

Having a child is the most rewarding, life-altering and life-enhancing experience. I only have one (so far) and while there are those who struggle to bring a baby into this world, and those who simply choose not to even try, I must admit that having a child was not my choice.

What I mean is that, for a brief period of time, I thought I would never have kids. Then I got pregnant, unexpectedly, in college, and lost the baby just a few months later. I lost more than my unborn child that day and it took me a long time - years, in fact - to finally come to the realization that life does what it will with us.

I ended up moving to San Diego after the miscarriage, meeting my son's father, getting married, and creating our beautiful child together before moving on and separating our lives and dividing our time.

I could dwell on the negative aspects of all of this, like the fact that my son cries himself to sleep quite often, always missing the other parent, but instead, I choose to look at the positive things that my son is getting from this experience of moving back and forth between two worlds.

He is loved. He is challenged. He is learning to adjust, learning to live under different sets of rules, habits and climates. He is growing to love each of us for our strengths and despite our weaknesses. Our ability to apologize (profusely) and ask for forgiveness enables our son to see the ups and downs of life, the best and worst of people.

Life leads us in many different directions. Some may seem predictable, some come to us as a complete surprise. Parenthood is like that too. We should all be so lucky. And we should all be lucky to have friends and family to turn to - for advice, a shoulder to cry on, or to brag about our little one's achievements.

I feel honored that my girlfriends come to me for any number of these things. I love sharing the horror stories of parenthood with them - along with the mommy moments that make us proud. I am proud of all the Mommies in my life - especially my own - for teaching me to be a better parent.

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